Asad Zaman, MHA’12, has served as the Director of Transplant Services for three years at the Hillman Center for Pediatric Transplantation at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Prior to the pandemic, most of Zaman’s meetings revolved around regulatory awareness and readiness for his team’s collaborative pediatric transplant programs.
Zaman was prepared to shift quickly and think outside of the box when reconsidering the practices’ traditional working methods; preparation he thanks the MHA program at the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health for.
“One of the first things I had to consider is that our patient population is all immunocompromised after receiving a transplant,” Zaman said. “We had to find ways for our staff to work with an immunocompromised population without having to bring them onsite and risk their exposure to COVID-19.”
This forward-thinking helped UPMC become one of the first healthcare systems in the country to receive funding from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) through the COVID-19 Telehealth Program Fund.
These funds from the FCC through the CARES Act provide telehealth services to organ transplant pediatric patients who are immunocompromised and at an increased risk of getting COVID-19.
“We were the first children’s hospital in the country to receive this funding,” he said. “The chief of pediatric transplantation, myself and another partner helped us figure out how much data we would need, what kind of devices we would need, and what our patient population could benefit from through the use of telemedicine. We worked quickly, and when we received notice that we were one of the first six awardees, we were thrilled to support our patients this way.”
There are nearly 1,000 post-transplant patients that UPMC Children’s treats on a regular basis and many are from out-of-state.
Zaman believes that telemedicine is a critical way to support patients keeping them healthy and safe, and the pandemic has shown how useful telemedicine can be for patients.
“We provide psychological services for our transplant patients. All of our psychologists can see their patients right now through telemedicine. Telehealth appointments have reduced the patients’ burdens. They find more ease in scheduling appointments, and they are no longer paying for parking or navigating the hospital. They get to avoid exposure at a critical time in their recovery. It’s been a real benefit for the individuals we serve. Our patients love it and feel that they have received the same level of care.”
Since graduating, Zaman has stayed active with the MHA program. He attends the ACHE conference every chance he gets, and often mentors students, as this was a valuable piece of his time as an MHA student. Today, he encourages MHA students to get involved in an internship or healthcare experience that engages with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The lessons we will learn during this short period will never go away, and these lessons will have implications for how the healthcare industry moves forward in the future.”